Japan’s health ministry will relax the age limit on U.S. beef to 30 months from 20 months next year after it receives approval from the nation’s Food Safety Commission as early as this month, according to Hideshi Michino, director at the ministry’s food-safety department. The threshold, imposed to safeguard against mad-cow disease, may be eased further to six years, he said in an interview without giving a timeframe.

Bloomberg News reports that the relaxation may increase purchases by Japan, which bought 10 percent more beef from the U.S. in the first half of 2012 because of a strong yen and concerns about the safety of domestic food after the nuclear disaster in Fukushima prefecture last year.

“We believe the safety of beef is ensured by eliminating risk materials from the meat, rather than limiting the age of cattle,” said Minoru Yamamoto, director at the international animal health affairs office of the agriculture ministry.

The commission will approve the 30-month limit probably by the end of this month, said Makoto Osone, an official with the food-safety group, without commenting on the six-year limit.

Source: Bloomberg